10 Introduction

Module 3 – The Art of Poetry

Module Introduction


A key skill to develop in reading literature is the ability to perform what is known as a “close reading.” Beyond reading for basic understanding of the main ideas, “close reading” demands attention to detail and an appreciation for how a piece of writing is constructed. Upon completing a “close reading,” you will be able to answer not only the more obvious “what” questions

  • “What was that poem about?”
  • “What does it mean?”

You also will be able to answer the more complex “how” questions …

  • “How did the writer use language in a unique or challenging way?”
  • “How does the reader respond to the writer’s unique use of language?”

and more challenging “why” questions, such as

  • “Why did the writer use that metaphor?” and
  • “Why did the author risk confusing the reader with ambiguous language?”

An effective way to practice close reading is to focus our attention on the precise use of language and the structure of a poem. Perhaps you may feel less experienced or less confident in reading poetry in comparison to reading a short story. (Or perhaps you are very experienced and can help guide your classmates.) Wherever you are on the spectrum of novice to expert, learning to actively read poetry will ensure that whatever genre we read we will have the skill set to notice detail, appreciate the use of language, and to discern subtlety in literary craftsmanship.

This module contains a variety of types of poetry from different time periods and different literary traditions. The selections are not meant to be inclusive of every tradition of poetry; rather, these poems offer good opportunities to practice active reading and complex reasoning skills and to build a strong foundation in “close reading” that will serve us well for the duration of the course. 1

Course Learning Outcomes

This module addresses the following Course Learning Outcomes listed in the Syllabus for this course:

  • Demonstrate proficiency in critical thinking
  • Recognize the relationships between cultural expressions and their contexts
  • Understand cultural expressions
  • Interpret and evaluate cultural artifacts and/or their contexts for significance
  • Understand basic literary elements of specific genres: short story, poetry, and drama
  • Analyze and evaluate selected works of literature in classroom or online settings
  • Analyze and evaluate both in class discussions (whether face-to-face or electronic) and in class writing, selected works of literature
  • Demonstrate and understand how literature is relevant to their personal, social, and historical awareness 1

Module Objectives

Upon completion of this module, the student will be able to:

  • Recognize literary elements and formal structures of poetry
  • Describe themes and major ideas of selected poems
  • Interpret selected poems for meaning and significance
  • Analyze poetry in writing
  • Develop a full-length analysis of a specific poem 1

Readings and Resources

  • Read: Learning Object: The Art of Poetry (1)
  • Read: Module 3 Readings (Attached above Module_03.pdf . You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to access this file)
  • Listen: “Ode to the West Wind” by Percy Bysshe Shelley ( LibriVox (14) recording)
  • Listen: “Sonnet 19” by John Milton ( LibriVox (16) recording)

Optional Further Reading

  • Hirsch, Edward. How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry . New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1999.
  • Ong, Walter J. Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word . London; New York: Routledge, 1982.


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